Over the past couple of weeks since my previous post, I’ve been putting a lot of time into reading everything I can find on publishing to the iPad, particularly from InDesign, so I was fascinated by Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch’s series of announcements during the Max conference keynote yesterday.

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It wasn’t a complete surprise that Adobe have opened up the InDesign-AppStore route to individual users. Since Creative Suite 5.5 – which has really wowed me over the last two weeks – you’ve been able to create an interactive book or magazine in InDesign and use its Folio Builder panel to upload pages to Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite web site, which then bakes your content and publishes an app a range of supported app stores, including Apple’s. Unfortunately, this service was only available as a $6000 annual subscription. I imagine Adobe urgently needed to get a corporate solution up and running and weren’t ready for the masses, and certainly that level of fees priced out individuals wanting to use a rather-elegant workflow. So the new Digital Publishing Suite, Single Edition is a one-off payment of $395 per app. According to the announcement:

The Single Edition offering truly democratizes publishing – it allows customers to publish a single, custom iPad app for a one-time payment of US$395. Bottom line- it’s affordable.

OK, it is hype, and “democratizes publishing” may be true if you define democracy rather like the ancient Greeks and exclude most people who aren’t geeks. At first I thought this was an easy win – “only” double the price of Aquafadas but with a workflow I’ve been very happily testing. Bob Levine at InDesign Secrets highlights some of the difficulties: and the first two seem particularly

  • This is a one-off product. No in-app purchases and no subscriptions.
  • The app cannot be updated. Just like a printed piece, if it needs updating you pay.
  • …DPS SE is iPad only at this time. Playbook and Android will roll out in 2012.
  • North America only to start…. globally throughout 2012.

The second point struck me as the most troublesome. Who hasn’t ever finished a piece of work, checked it over, twice or more, and then released it – only to identify minor typos or stupid errors? A friend recently told me 5 minutes after sending a wedding slideshow DVD he’d realised he’d misspelt the bride’s maiden name on the title screen. It happens all the time, because it is so hard to audit one’s own work, and part of the attraction of digital publishing is the ability to push out updates or minor fixes. One might also question whether the pricing is really that attractive. If you’re using the route to create a promotional app for art directors or other potential customers, then $395 isn’t too bad – assuming you have/know InDesign and don’t need to hire someone to create your masterpiece. And it’s not too bad if you’re selling the book. Say $5 a copy through the App Store and you’re talking 113 copies before you break even (after Apple gouge 30% of the revenue). But given my reservations about getting it right first time, how good a deal is it?

So Single Edition could still amount to a substantial barrier to publishing, especially if you can choose to create an app in Flash, or even XCode. On the other hand, Adobe are giving you a helping hand – your first published Single Edition app will be free.

The other announcement that really caught my eye was that Adobe are buying the company that makes PhoneGap. I’d never heard of them until a week or two ago, but I’ve been pursuing parallel routes to iPad publishing and noticed PhoneGap in Packaging web applications as mobile apps using Dreamweaver CS5.5. That method requires a local installation of the iOS toolkit so is Mac-limited, but it led me to their PhoneGap Build which seems to get round that problem by baking the app in the cloud. I don’t know how good it is, but my InDesign-DPS app makes extensive use of HTML for its interactivity.

And there was something else that was wonderful. They showed Photoshop Touch and how this app supports layers and how these were shown in 3D when they angled the tablet. Something to come in the desktop version (without tilting your monitor!)

The stonkingly-big (300 million pixels a second) screen was pretty impressive too!